Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Matthias Goerne : Mahler Eisler Wigmore Hall

A song cycle within a song symphony - Matthias Goerne's intriuging approach to Mahler song, with Marcus Hinterhäuser, at the Wigmore Hall, London. Mahler's entire output can be described as one vast symphony, spanning an arc that stretches from his earliest songs to the sketches for what would have been his tenth symphony. Song was integral to Mahler's compositional process, germinating ideas that could be used even in symphonies which don't employ conventional singing.

A Merry Falstaff in San Diego

On February 21, 2017, San Diego Opera presented Giuseppe Verdi’s last composition, Falstaff, at the Civic Theater. Although this was the second performance in the run and the 21st was a Tuesday, there were no empty seats to be seen. General Director David Bennett assembled a stellar international cast that included baritone Roberto de Candia in the title role and mezzo-soprano Marianne Cornetti singing her first Mistress Quickly.

New Production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute at Lyric Opera, Chicago

In Neil Armfield’s new production of Die Zauberflöte at Lyric Opera of Chicago the work is performed as entertainment on a summer’s night staged by neighborhood children in a suburban setting. The action takes place in the backyard of a traditional house, talented performers collaborate with neighborhood denizens, and the concept of an onstage audience watching this play yields a fresh perspective on staging Mozart’s opera.

A Salome to Remember

Patricia Racette’s Salome is an impetuous teenage princess who interrupts the royal routine on a cloudy night by demanding to see her stepfather’s famous prisoner. Racette’s interpretation makes her Salome younger than the characters portrayed by many of her famous colleagues of the past. This princess plays mental games with Jochanaan and with Herod. Later, she plays a physical game with the gruesome, natural-looking head of the prophet.

L’Elisir d’Amore Goes On Despite Storm

On February 17, 2017 Pacific Opera Project performed Gaetano Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore at the Ebell Club in Los Angeles. After that night, it can be said that neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night can stay this company from putting on a fine show. Earlier in the day the Los Angeles area was deluged with heavy rain that dropped up to an inch of water per hour. That evening, because of a blown transformer, there was no electricity in the Ebell Club area.

Boris Godunov in Marseille

There has been much reconstruction of Marseille’s magnificent Opera Municipal since it opened in 1787. Most recently a huge fire in 1919 provoked a major, five-year renovation of the hall and stage that reopened in 1924.

Bartoli a dream Cenerentola in Amsterdam

With her irresistible cocktail of spontaneity and virtuosity, Cecilia Bartoli is a beloved favourite of Amsterdam audiences. In triple celebratory mode, the Italian mezzo-soprano chose Rossini’s La Cenerentola, whose bicentenary is this year, to mark twenty years of performing at the Concertgebouw, and her twenty-fifth performance at its Main Hall.

Winterreise : a parallel journey

Matthew Rose and Gary Matthewman Winterreise: a Parallel Journey at the Wigmore Hall, a recital with extras. Schubert's winter journey reflects the poetry of Wilhelm Müller, where images act as signposts mapping the protagonist's psychological journey.

Anna Bolena in Lisbon

Donizetti’s Anna Bolena, composed in 1830, didn’t make it to Lisbon until 1843 when there were 14 performances at its magnificent Teatro São Carlos (opened 1793), and there were 17 more performances spread over the next two decades. The entire twentieth century saw but three (3) performances in this European capital.

Oh, What a Night in San Jose

It is difficult to know where to begin to praise the stunning achievement of Opera San Jose’s West Coast premiere of Silent Night.

Billy Budd in Madrid

Like Carmen, Billy Budd is an operatic personage of such breadth and depth that he becomes unique to everyone. This signals that there is no Billy Budd (or Carmen) who will satisfy everyone. And like Carmen, Billy Budd may be indestructible because the opera will always mean something to someone.

A riveting Nixon in China at the Concertgebouw

American composer John Adams turns 70 this year. By way of celebration no less than seven concerts in this season’s NTR ZaterdagMatinee series feature works by Adams, including this concert version of his first opera, Nixon in China.

English song: shadows and reflections

Despite the freshness, passion and directness, and occasional wry quirkiness, of many of the works which formed this lunchtime recital at the Wigmore Hall - given by mezzo-soprano Kathryn Rudge, pianist James Baillieu and viola player Guy Pomeroy - a shadow lingered over the quiet nostalgia and pastoral eloquence of the quintessentially ‘English’ works performed.

A charming Pirates of Penzance revival at ENO

'Nobody does Gilbert and Sullivan anymore.’ This was the comment from many of my friends when I mentioned the revival of Mike Leigh's 2015 production of The Pirates of Penzance at English National Opera (ENO). Whilst not completely true (English Touring Opera is doing Patience next month), this reflects the way performances of G&S have rather dropped out of the mainstream. That Leigh's production takes the opera on its own terms and does not try to send it up, made it doubly welcome.

A Relevant Madama Butterfly

On Feb 3, 2017, Arizona Opera presented Giacomo Puccini’s dramatic opera Madama Butterfly. Sandra Lopez was the naive fifteen-year-old who falls hopelessly in love with the American Naval Officer.

Johan Reuter sings Brahms with Wiener Philharmoniker

In the last of my three day adventure, I headed to Vienna for the Wiener Philharmoniker at the Musikverein (my first time!) for Mahler and Brahms.

Gatti and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra Head to Asia

In Amsterdam legend Janine Jansen and the seventh Principal Conductor of the Royal Concertgebouw, Daniele Gatti, came together for their first engagement in a ravishing performance of Berg’s Violin Concerto.

Verdi’s Requiem with the Berliner Philharmoniker

I extravagantly scheduled hearing the Berliner, Concertgebouw Orchestra, and Wiener Philharmoniker, to hear these three top orchestra perform their series programmes opening the New Year.

Jeanne d'Arc au bûcher in Lyon

There is no bigger or more prestigious name in avant-garde French theater than Romeo Castellucci (b. 1960), the Italian metteur en scène of this revival of Arthur Honegger’s mystère lyrique, Joan of Arc at the Stake (1938) at the Opéra Nouvel in Lyon.

A New Look at Mozart’s Abduction from the Seraglio

On January 28, 2017, Los Angeles Opera premiered James Robinson’s nineteen twenties production of Mozart’s The Abduction from the Seraglio, which places the story on the Orient Express. Since Abduction is a work with spoken dialogue like The Magic Flute, the cast sang their music in German and spoke their lines in English.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Joseph Kaiser as Tamino [Photo by Mike Hoban courtesy of The Royal Opera House]
06 Feb 2011

Die Zauberflöte, Covent Garden

Premiered in 2003, and aired again in 2005 and 2008, this current revival of David McVicar’s Die Zauberflöte brings many ‘old hands’ back together to re-visit oft-frequented roles on familiar ground.

W. A. Mozart: Die Zauberflöte

Tamino: Joseph Kaiser; Pamina: Kate Royal; Papageno: Christopher Maltman; Queen of the Night: Jessica Pratt; Sarastro: Franz-Josef Selig; Monostatos: Peter Hoare; Speaker of the Temple: Matthew Best; Papagena: Anna Devin; First Lady: Elisabeth Meister; Second Lady: Kai Rüütel; Tird Lady: Gaynor Keeble. David McVicar, Director. Colin Davis, Conductor. John Macfarlane, Designer. Paule Constable, Lighting designer. Leah Hausmann, Movement director. Lee Blakeley, Revival director. Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London, Tuesday 1 February 2011.

Above: Joseph Kaiser as Tamino

All photos by Mike Hoban courtesy of The Royal Opera House

 

This production’s first and only Sarastro, Franz-Josef Selig, steps back into the High Priest’s hallowed shoes; several esteemed soloists from the 2008 run return - Christopher Maltman reprising his confident, mischievous Papageno, and Kate Royal once again presenting a dignified and elegant Pamina. With the original conductor, Sir Colin Davis, at the helm, a smooth sailing should be guaranteed; however, there were a few unexpected wobbles on this opening night, and if the ship didn’t hit the rocks it certainly lost its moorings on occasion.

John Macfarlane’s designs are still strikingly sumptuous: effortless transitions between lavish tableaux, packed with period details and evocatively lit by Paule Constable, transport one — as if gliding aloft a magic carpet — to other worlds. Die Zauberflöte is a compendium of styles, forms and moods: Masonic mysticism rubs shoulders with pantomime farce; erudite Enlightenment philosophy sits alongside an earthy tale of human endeavour and love. And McVicar and his designer, John Macfarlane, skilfully conjure and combine these domains: scientific astronomical apparatus whisk us back to an empirical eighteenth-century, the sweeping glare of an outsized crescent moon casts a supernatural spell. So, it is perhaps all the more surprising that a few ‘false notes’ are allowed to creep in.

ZAUBER-1024_0508-MALTMAN&RO.gifChristopher Maltman as Papageno and Kate Royal as Pamina

Maltman’s Papageno is warm-hearted and exuberant. Although perhaps not exploiting the full colour range and power of his increasingly varied palette and rich baritonal resonance, Maltman revelled in the moments of comedic flippancy and fun; admittedly this was sometimes at the expense of rhythmic precision, and he occasionally lost touch with the pit — thereby unintentionally emphasising the bird-catcher’s anarchic streak.

As Sarastro, Franz-Josef Selig, struck an imposing physical figure: regal, poised and self-possessed. His diction was impressive (alone among the cast, his is singing in his native tongue), and although he took a little while to settle down in, particularly in the middle range, his performance was commanding and secure.

Kate Royal’s soprano is strong, sure and gorgeous in tone, but while gracious and composed, I feel that physically and vocally she lacks some of the child-like naivety which is integral to the role of Pamina. There was no doubting the beauty and grace of her vocal line. Her duet with Papageno, ‘Bei Männern, welche Liebe fühlen’, was achingly touching, but was equalled in affecting loveliness by ‘Ach, ich fühl's’. Royal’s strength and control were not quite matched by her Tamino, Joseph Kaiser, and this was particularly noticeable in the lover’s ‘reunion scene’. Kaiser’s portrayal was rather one-dimensional but he compensated for some occasionally wooden acting with a flexible, light voice aptly conveying the youthful optimism and bravery of the idealistic hero.

ZAUBER-1024_0148-(C)MIKE-HO.gifFrom Left To Right: Elisabeth Meister as First Lady, Jessica Pratt as Queen of the Night, Kai Rüütel as Second Lady and at the back, Gaynor Keeble as Third Lady

As the Queen of the Night, Jessica Pratt, making her role and house debut, had all the notes, and hit them cleanly. While her top notes were warm and true, without a hint of stridency or loss of power, her lower register projected less well and she did not really convey the menace of the would-be murderer. A general lack of dramatic and musical subtlety, as in the recitative to her first aria, ‘O zittre nicht’, diluted the impact of the Queen’s vengeful terrorising.

British tenor, Peter Hoare, was an eccentric Monostatos, who in this production is made to bear the bulk of the burden for creating comedy and lightness. A caricature villain, he is less dangerous racial threat, the embodiment of ‘otherness’, and more a harmless, if ridiculous, be-wigged dandy, the epitome of vanity. Matthew Best was an authoritative Speaker, imperiously directing Tamino to the ‘right path’, effectively establishing a moment of dramatic gravitas at the end of Act 1.

Several Jette Parker Young Artists were given opportunities to shine. The First and Second Ladies, Elisabeth Meister and Kai Rüütel respectively, were joined by the more experienced Gaynor Keeble to form a well-blended trio. Their stage-craft, however, seemed rather undirected, particularly in the opening scene where, given that the hand-manipulated, puppet serpent (just one of many of McVicar’s overt debts to eighteenth-century theatrical paraphernalia), though wonderfully charming, hardly chills the blood. Thus, the black-clad Ladies need to generate an air of peril and intimidation; but, rhythmic co-ordination was a little wayward and there was a lack of projection. As Papagena, JPYA Anna Devin — attractive both vocally and physically — should have been an irresistible ‘catch’ for Papageno. But, inexplicably, she was presented not as a beauty disguised as a beggar, but in attire more fitting for a bordello boudoir — no wonder Papageno looked away in disgust.

The chorus was rather ragged and some of the responsibility for the poor ensemble must rest with Sir Colin Davis, a supremely experienced Mozartian, but who nevertheless failed to pace this production effectively. After a wonderfully stately start to the overture — where the warm weight, focused intonation and glossy sheen of the horns powerfully established the mood of Masonic majesty — the Allegro failed to catch fire, and the spark of conflict and contrast which should drive the opera forward was never quite ignited. (Moreover, the orb-carrying extras wandering rather purposelessly through the stalls hardly helped matters.) Davis chooses to ignore the period performance specialists’ preference for pace and nimbleness; but while this should not prevent an effective dramatic momentum being achieved, some of the tempi were overly ponderous — particularly the Priests’ March and Sarastro’s ‘O Isis and Osiris’ at the opening of Act 2 which was decidedly sluggish. Indeed, even Selig lost contact with the pit, a rare moment of discomposure. Davis was however sensitive to the soloists, controlling dynamics and texture to provide appropriate accompanying support, especially in the case of the Three Boys (Jacob Ramsay-Patel, Harry Stanton and Harry Manton) who shone through — and stayed in time …

Overall this was an enjoyable, if slightly unsatisfactory, opening night. Perhaps insufficient time was allotted to this well-known revival; if so, things should improve as the run progresses.

[Die Zauberflöte continues in repertory until Saturday 19 February.]

Claire Seymour

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):